I've been mourning the tragic loss of the Hayes & Vine Wine bar in Hayes Valley. When my husband and I moved here two and a half years ago, Hayes & Vine was the place we chose to go to on our first night out. They were just lovely there. The atmosphere was chill and comfortable, the decor was artistic and sophisticated, and the guys behind the bar were awesome. We each had a glass of wine and started chatting with them about our recent move to the area, the platters of cheese and cold meats they offered, and the fact that they only had tawny port on their menu. We decided to order one of their ports to share, but they sent over two glasses: our modest tawny and a $32-glass of vintage port. We were confused. "Welcome to San Francisco," they said. What a way to be greeted in our new city! So, yes, I was very sad to see Hayes & Vine disappear from my new neighborhood, but when rents are being raised all over the Valley not many places have been able to survive.
When I spied a liquor license application taped to the old Hayes & Vine window I harbored a hope that they had scraped up enough money to make a victorious comeback. They hadn't, but what has taken their place isn't half bad at all. With soothing indigo walls, squashy sofas and chairs, and curiously exuding a faint but unmistakable aroma of fresh citrus and roses, Sugar Lounge is a kick-ass place to have drinks with friends.
Sugar offers a few wines and beers, but clearly cocktails are the way to go at this place. After consulting the menu and mulling over a Grape o'Tini made with white grape juice and a Mojito with sparkling wine, my friend and I decided to sample a tart Love Shack (Hangar One Mandarin, Cointreau, pomegranate juice, and fresh-squeezed lime) and a 009 Martini made with San Francisco-distilled Gin 209 that was so smooth my lips went numb after the first sip.
In addition to cocktail glasses brimming over with such sugary offerings as Almond Roca, mini Hershey bars, and Kisses, Sugar Lounge does something else to make sure their cocktail sipping customers don't go elsewhere in search of adequate sustenance. A long shelf is set up with cubes of cheese and ham, crackers, mustard, and crudite. There were also two empty chafing dishes that I watched ravenously. What made me watch these tantalizingly empty chafing dishes? Well, there were also two wine glasses full of red peppery, soy saucey dipping delight, and anything that gets dipped into sauce is bound to be exciting. Sure enough, hot water was added to the dishes and pans of fried delicacies were piled in. One pan was stacked with small eggrolls and boneless nuggets of tangily-sauced chicken and the other pan held mushroom, carrot, shrimp, and broccoli tempura. Free fried stuff and alcohol? How friggin' brilliant can you get? We filled our plates, ordered two more drinks, and settled in for the night.
377 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA 94102